On Mother’s Day, Ricardo Levins Morales filmed an MTC officer asking Ariel Vences-Lopez about his immigration status. That’s not supposed to happen, but it did. Later, Vences-Lopez was arrested and tasered, then held in custody by the Hennepin County Sheriff, then turned over to immigration officials. Now in ICE custody, he is scheduled to be deported,
MTC has said the officer had no business asking about immigration status, that this is not their policy or practice. That’s not the only violation of policy and practice – Vences-Lopez was held in secret, his name was “redacted” from the arrest report, and inquiries about the case were stalled, evaded, or just not answered, according to a carefully documented blog post by Tony Webster, who identifies himself as a “web engineer, public records researcher, and policy nerd.” Webster raises important questions, including:
“Surely the Chief knew his officer had tasered the young man and booked him into jail, so why did the public find out for the first time on May 24 that he went to jail, and on May 25 that he was tasered?
“Was the arrest record suppressed from public view, or was it just a coincidence of timing? Is there a policy on when arrests are suppressed from the jail roster and the reasons why an arrest can be manually suppressed?”
If you are concerned about immigration enforcement, or about law enforcement in general, or about suppression of public information, Webster’s blog post is a must-read.
That Metro Transit passenger asked about his residency status — he’s being deported. (Pioneer Press, 5/27/17)
“Vences-Lopez’s name was originally redacted from the Metro Transit police report on the incident, and officials said that the report included all that would be made public at the time.
“After the Pioneer Press asked on Thursday which portion of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act allowed Metro Transit to redact the name, a spokesman said he would confer with the agency’s general counsel and return with an update.
“Early Friday evening, Metro Transit confirmed Vences-Lopez’s name.”
Metro Transit’s secret arrest and deportation (Tonywebster.com, 5/27/17) The latest statements from MTC and the Hennepin County Sheriff leave a lot to be desired:
“Neither statement addresses the full gamut of questions, nor details the timeline in how Metro Transit addressed the controversy. The statements said Metro Transit found out the man was in ICE custody because a Pioneer Press reporter told them so, late Friday night. Chair Duininck said prior to learning of the deportation order, the agency was working on possibly placing the Metro rider in a diversion program or having charges dropped.
“Both statements seemed to imply Metro Transit was given false information, perhaps by officials at the Hennepin County jail. Chief Harrington stated, “we understood that Vences-Lopez had been released from the custody of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office,” and Chair Duininck said, “At the time we were told the rider had been released from custody, he had actually been in ICE custody for nearly a week.” The statements promised to look into why the agency was allegedly given inaccurate information, and promised to uncover “what went wrong.”
And in other news
Mother Locked In Family Detention Attempts Suicide To Free Her Kids (Huffington Post, 5/26/17) Her family ran a Western-style school in Afghanistan, offering scholarships to women. They received repeated threats and fled in fear for their lives.
“Samira Hakimi, an Afghan national, has spent the last six months detained with her two young children despite a federal ruling that dictates they should have been released within three weeks. The case reinforces the longstanding concerns of immigrant rights groups that say asylum-seeking families should not be forced into prolonged detention.
“They told us you will only be a couple of days in there,” Hakimi told HuffPost. “I never thought that I would be detained here for such a long time. That I’m detained here because I’m from Afghanistan and that’s all. But I’m human.”
States offer immigrants the safety net that Washington won’t (Governing Magazine, 5/23/17)
“A new report, published by the Urban Institute, offers the most complete picture to date on what welfare programs are available to people based on their immigration status and reveals major differences across the states….
“For their first five years in the U.S., adult green card holders don’t have access to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. But five states fund nutrition assistance for those immigrants: California, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota and Washington state.
“The story is similar for children of green card holders: They’re ineligible for federal Medicaid funds, but a growing number of states have extended Medicaid benefits to them.”
“In a recorded conversation, [defense attorney] Christos Vasiliades, 38, and another man charged in the case, Edgar Ivan Rodriguez, told the alleged victim’s husband about the “current environment for immigrants in this country” and offered $3,000 cash if she did not show up to court, which would force prosecutors to drop the case, the indictment alleges.
“You know how things are with Trump’s laws now; someone goes to court, and boom, they get taken away,” Rodriguez told the victim’s husband in the recorded conversation, according to an indictment by the Maryland attorney general’s office.”
Immigrants’ Rights Clinic Students Create Unique Guide for Pro Se Asylum Seekers (Stanford Law Clinic, 5/24/17)
“We created a usable and interactive guide tailored to the specific needs of individuals with asylum cases in San Francisco Immigration Court. It is the first ever of its kind. Our guide is not a legal manual, but a document that can be used by anyone, with simple language, clear examples, worksheets and charts for individuals to fill out to organize the information in their own cases, and sample forms (such as cover letters and applications). Of course, navigating the asylum process remains a complex and daunting challenge, especially considering that those who must navigate it have fled their country in fear of persecution. However, with this guide, we believe that we can help more individuals have a real chance of finding protection and a better life here in the United States.”
Building Trades question hiring of guest workers on construction project (Workday Minnesota, 5/25/17)
“Leaders of Building Trades unions say contractor Genuine Builders has broken rules, exploited foreign workers and sidelined locals in its hiring practices at the ongoing expansion of the Meadowland Farm Co-op in Walnut Grove, Minn.”
Trump immigration database exposes crime victims’ personal info, lawyers say (The Guardian, 5/26/17)
“A new US immigration database has exposed the personal information of crime victims, putting them at risk of further violence and violating federal laws designed to conceal the identities of abuse survivors, according to a coalition of attorneys.
“The online database – recently unveiled as part of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda and accessible to the general public – includes immigrant victims who have sought federal protections as survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault, activists said. …
“That means immigrants who have applied for relief under the Violence Against Women Act and other similar programs have had their private information exposed because they are undocumented. Attorneys fear that the database will allow abusers and traffickers to track the locations of their victims, interfere with their cases and inflict further violence.”
To keep crops from rotting in the field, farmers say they need Trump to let in more temporary workers (Los Angeles Times, 5/25/17) They need immigrant workers, but abuses of workers abound.
“More than 11,000 foreign guest workers like Betancourt were approved last year to harvest the lettuce, fruit and vegetables for California’s $47-billion agricultural industry — a fivefold increase from 2011, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of U.S. Labor Department data.
“If this year’s hiring pace holds, that number will soar even higher.”
“In recently released body camera footage, an undocumented Florida man is asked by a sheriff’s deputy if he’s “illegal” moments after being struck by a pickup truck while riding his bike. After being treated in a hospital, he now faces deportation.”